Leopard 1A5 in Ukraine Leopard 1A5 in Ukraine

Germany takes over co-leadership of the Capability Coalition Main Battle Tanks

Germany is taking over the co-leadership of the main battle tanks capability coalition. This was announced today by Germany’s Minister of Defence Boris Pistorius after the latest meeting of the “Capability Coalition Integrated Air & Missile Defence”, in which Germany is already one of the two leading nations.

While the air defence capability coalition is co-led by France, Germany will share the lead with Poland in the capability coalition focusing on main battle tanks.

Pistorius called the new leading role for Germany “obvious”, as Germany is a leading nation for main battle tanks and combat vehicles in Ukraine.

Germany’s Minister of Defence is, for example, referring to direct and indirect deliveries of over 100 main battle tanks to Ukraine. Whether we are talking about the 28 M55-S from Slovenia, the 20 T-72M1 from Czechia, the current deliveries of Leopard 1A5s or 18 to 21 already delivered Leopard 2A6, Germany has already brought quite a few MBTs to Ukraine, even in 2022!

Nevertheless, this is an interesting announcement, as the German Ministry of Defence told German journalist Björn Müller at the end of January that corresponding reports by the US Department of Defence were false.

The DOD announced on its website on the 23rd of January that Germany will lead two new coalitions together with Latvia: Tanks and drones. Only three days later, there was backlash coming from Germany: they were only considering joining both coalitions, not leading both of them. So now the turnaround after all.

What are capability coalitions and what purpose do they serve?

The eight capability coalitions, which are currently focusing on Ukraine’s drones, tanks, air force, artillery, maritime security, ground-based air defence, demining and information technology capabilities, are there to support and build up Ukraine’s defence in the long term over the following years.

In detail, the idea is to support Ukraine in specific areas through better coordinated assistance on a long-term basis in line with NATO standards.

The point is therefore not to put together a new aid package in the short term, but to strengthen Ukraine in a targeted and long-term manner. Status quo, future requirements and needs, and so on.

Instead of each country doing its own thing, actions in these fields are better coordinated among the participating countries and measures can be implemented in a more targeted manner.

Germany’s tasks in the new capability coalition are not yet announced. In the air defence capability coalition, Germany ironically only takes over the sector “training”, while France takes over the sector “command structure” and the US the sector “air defence systems”. I am therefore curious to see what tasks Germany will have to fulfil.

IRIS-T SLM launcher winter 2022
A German-delivered IRIS-T SLM air defence system launcher somewhere in Ukraine

It is also possible that this new capability coalition is not just about MBTs, even if so far, this has been communicated by the German Ministry of Defence and Boris Pistorius personally.

After all, in January, the US Department of Defence gave the capability coalition the name “armor”, which could also include armoured vehicles such as MRAPs, IFVs and more.

Nevertheless, the cooperation with Poland should be interesting, especially when it comes to main battle tanks. I think that most people will agree with me when I say that the relationship with Poland in this field has been “special” and “eventful”.

But let’s be honest, regardless of what the new capability coalition includes, whether we are “only” talking about main battle tanks or armoured vehicles in general, and regardless of what our previous relationship with Poland was like when it came to main battle tanks, I, personally, don’t really care at the moment.

The only important thing is that Germany is also taking a leading role here and, as Boris Pistorius has already said himself, this should actually be “obvious”. But not only that. If I may add, it should also be our aspiration!

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